Incheon (South Korea): After delays and question marks over their participation, India U-23 men's football team have it all to prove when they open their Asian Games campaign against last edition's silver medallists United Arab Emirates in a Group G match at the Hwaseong Sports Complex main stadium here Monday.
Both the men and women's football teams were left stranded in China after the sports ministry decided not to clear teams in five disciplines, including football due to rising costs. But both teams were given clearance later.
The UAE are ranked 65 in the world, much higher than India, who occupy 150th spot, but the Indians will take inspiration from the last two matches played between the two teams, both of which ended in draws.
India will need to look past their poor performances against Pakistan in the two match series, which was tied 1-1.
In the U-22 Asian Cup qualifiers in Muscat in 2012, the UAE had managed to hold India 1-1, a match which a dominant India should have won convincingly had they converted their chances.
In 2011, in the World Cup qualifiers in New Delhi, goals from Gouramangi Singh and Jeje Lalpekhlua had earned India a 2-2 draw at the Ambedkar Stadium.
The Indian team have prepared long and hard with the first preparatory camp in Bangalore kicking-off July 1. Thereafter, there have been exposure tours to Czech Republic and China besides a friendly series agaisnt Pakistan.
So far, the two teams have played 11 matches between them with India winning just two while UAE victorious in eight.
India's first victory came in the first-ever meeting between the two sides, in the 1981 Merdeka Championship when India won 2-0.
The second win came in 2001 in the pre-World Cup qualifiers in Bangalore. Despite the loss, UAE had qualified for the 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup.